Part of the Shunpike program to bring art to the public, Noel Kat brings life to paper sculptures.
Fairy tales live amid the generic buildings of Amazon’s South Lake Union campus. In an unassuming window on East Thomas west of Boren, Rapunzel lets down her hair from a castle. The big bad wolf huffs and puffs. And Hansel and Gretel hold hands and face the unknown in a dark forest. The tiny figurines are in a storefront window, as part of a program by nonprofit arts organization Shunpike called Storefronts, which brings local artists’ works to the public.
The paper dolls are inspired by works of literature and painstakingly crafted by Seattle artist Noel Kat, 24, who landed here in 2012 after graduating from Duke University with a degree in art.
“It’s a project that combines my love of art and English. It’s just something I’ve always been fascinated with,” she said of the fairy tales. “I love children’s books with rich illustrations. With Grimms’, in Western culture, we normally sugarcoat them, but they have a darker background if you go back to the roots.”
The charming paper sculptures are one of many mediums the young transplant has worked with. She’s toyed with glassblowing — it was a scholarship at the Pilchuck Glass School that initially drew her to Seattle — and works with wood and metal to create large sculptures. But paper, she said, is her favorite medium, especially since she doesn’t currently have a studio.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- Review: Seattle's Day In Day Out festival steps out of Capitol Hill Block Party's shadow in focused year 2
- ‘The 6:20 Man’ is the top national fiction bestseller
- Review: Backstreet Boys, in White River Amphitheatre show, bring back the nostalgia
- LAPD ends investigation into Anne Heche car crash
- Now streaming: 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' available on VOD, 'Black Bird' on Apple TV+ and more
“I’m definitely happiest working with paper. I really like to build things with it,” she said. She’ll draw figures on books and make them cut outs that pop up. For another project she carved out tiny spaces in a book and filled those spaces with miniature versions of classics like “Brave New World,” “East of Eden” or “A Clockwork Orange.”
She initially got the idea for the fairy tales contemplating how to make taxidermy-esque sculptures using paper; the idea evolved from there and she started working on them for her final school project, adding more when she was accepted by Shunpike.
For the past year, she’s also worked on the window displays for fashion boutique Butch Blum on Sixth Avenue. Her current installation celebrates summer — with the display windows’ walls painted a bright sea-blue with colorful, impressionistic Koi fish and 3D paper sculptures hovering above.
“I really like sculpture for installation pieces that work in specific spaces, and I like the challenge of making pieces work in a space,” she said.
Her window displays are surrealistic and whimsical. In one sequence, she painted the background and the props — shovels, hoes, planters — in a scheme of varying monochromatics. In another, mannequins dressed in evening wear — suits and gold lamé dresses — are topped with animal heads: one well-dressed man is a pig; a woman is a cat; another is a unicorn. Those displays invoke her miniature forests with white paper drawings of trees rising behind the mannequins.
She points to other artists who work in installations — utilizing everyday materials like rope to create something surprising. One, Janet Echelman employed rainbow colored ropes between buildings in Boston — the ropes would move with the wind, changing sculpturally as the air blew across.
“I like those kind of things because they are using cool materials but they are making something that is unique and engaging and something that is accessible to the average person,” said Kat. “You can just see it and figure out what it’s made of, but see it in a completely different way.”